So few degrees of separation

William Brewster

William Brewster

My parents, at 92, don’t really shop any more.  So for birthdays and holidays they give a check and I pick my own gift.  This year for my birthday I bought an Ancestry DNA test and then took advantage of a sale and purchased six months of membership so I’d be able to take advantage of the test results.  I’ve been immersed in research ever since and feeling such shifts because of it.

Thomas Prence

I’ve filled in some extensive branches of the tree, found out I’m a Mayflower Descendant, a many times great granddaughter of a governor of the Plymouth Colony and a distant cousin to Frank and Jesse James.  Oh and my great grandfather died as a result of wounds sustained in a knife fight with a Constable who was trying to arrest him.  Whew.

Thomas Gaitskill stabbing

All the research I’ve done before this seemed to lead to poor tenant farmers who left the British Isles to try for a better chance over here.  And everyone I’d found owned a farm over here.  I thought of my ancestors as up-by-the-bootstraps poor folks, some of whom prospered well in the “new land”.  I saw poverty consciousness, anger and repression.

Now I see the Gaitskills were actually ship captains for a few generations.  And bunches of my ancestors were fairly prominent in the Virginia Colony.  It’s hard to describe the inner shift it creates to feel I came from people from all walks of life and that they weren’t all poor and scrabbling.  I have the qualities of those leaders and movers and shakers in me as well.  It makes me feel…  different.

As I discover surname after surname on my tree, read histories of Colonial Virginia that are loaded with these names, check out the migration pattern of all those names into Kentucky, and extend my tree, I’m so amazed to realize all these connections.  To see that I have cousins of various levels by the hundreds of thousands out there [just to give you an idea, they estimate the number of current descendants of my one 10x great grandfather Mayflower passenger is multi-thousands and we all have 4196 10x great grandparents — do the math!!!].  Suddenly it’s so clear that the “one web” isn’t just an amorphous spiritual concept but a physical reality.

Just as I found out several years ago that an acquaintance of several years is actually my double fourth cousin, we’re all probably passing cousins in the street all the time, friends with cousins, working with cousins.  My seemingly all-British roots turn out to go back to Europe and ancestors who entered Britain as part of the Norman invasion, according to the DNA test.  And there are hints of ancestors before that who go back to some sort of migration from India.  Slaveholders in my tree have provided me with Black cousins.  My cousin’s children are half Chinese.  I’m connected to every other race and many ethnicities even though hundreds of years of history say I’m WASP through and through.

I’m sure the same is true of most of the people who wear their whiteness as some sort of badge of honor that makes them better or more entitled or whatever their goofy thought process is.  If they only knew their whole ancestral picture I wonder if it might change them?  It becomes so clear — at least to me — that we are all separated by only a few degrees.  One.  All one.

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Tips for Peaceful Activism

Although time has calmed many people down a notch from the hysteria post election, every day I see enough on social media to realize too many are still hyped up and being reactive instead of proactive.  I’ve already produced a little series of posts with suggestions about compassionate activism but I thought I’d produce a pithier version with some added thoughts and suggestions.

Stay in the Moment

Quit spinning out catastrophic ideas into the future based on info you see today.  Many people are making dire pronouncements on social media — often based on info from seriously shaky sources when nothing in the unconfirmed information actually suggests the dire outcome necessarily follows.

Take a breath.  Then another.  Bring yourself into the moment.  Ask yourself:  Is this happening now?  If the government isn’t falling, if democracy hasn’t ended, if civil rights haven’t been abolished in this moment, calm down and remind yourself of what is true here and now.  BE IN THE MOMENT!

Take Back the Narrative

When you keep passing on disturbing pieces of information about what the opposition is saying and doing, you let them frame the narrative.  Leaders have been doing it for years.

I first noticed back in the 80’s when Ronald Reagan dubbed the troops fighting for Somoza’s fallen government in Nicaragua “Freedom Fighters”, implying they were the forces for democracy instead of actually the henchmen of a toppled dictatorial regime who were trying to overthrow the social democratic Sandinista government.  And the media went with it.  The New York Times and the other major dailies, the major broadcasting stations — all of them participated in his re-frame, helping to convince people we should be fighting to restore the dictatorship (since Somoza was dead I’ve never been clear who would have run it).

Creating phrases or re-naming things using the words that suit the agenda is a frequent tactic of leaders.  #45 is a salesman.  A master of creating a narrative to sell the hapless on whatever he wants them to believe.

Right now one of his big sells is that he’s just “deregulating”.  In a country full of independent spirits, it’s a word that always implies getting rid of big government.  What it really means is he wants to remove every protection that keeps middle class and lower class Americans safe from fraud, environmental illnesses, discrimination etc. by getting rid of regulations that control corporations.  Not by a long-shot the only arena in which he’s using loaded phrases to paint a picture he wants.

Every time you pass along articles repeating the Republican administration’s phrases, you allow them to frame the narrative.  Take it back.  Write a post that re-frames what was said to reflect what is really happening and share that.

Give Your Energy to the Outcome You Want–Shift the Energy

Quit using his name.  Quit using the name of the Machiavellian senator from Kentucky.  Every time you mention them you send energy to them, building them up and leaving the other people and possibilities for your side weaker.  #45 or He Who Shall Not Be Named 1 and 2 will do.  #45 wants to be constantly in the “news” and you’re giving him what he wants.

Right now we have less than two years to identify good candidates, create  grass roots campaigns to sidestep the ineffectiveness of the Democratic party (here in KY the campaigns have been so badly run in recent years I’ve been puzzled as to who the Democratic candidate even was in many races;  possibly GOP funded infiltrators are running the party here? 🙂 ) and send our energy toward that.

Or if you want to stand with the folks at Standing Rock, send your thoughts and energy there.  If you want to help save wildlife, decide what would help and post about that.  If you want to support immigrants and refugees, do something about that and post about it.  Think up a program and enlist support.

Currently I’m doing some research about how we could start crowd funding outside the U.S. to re-fund any place or any thing #45 de-funds.  Others are creating support groups, attending protests, etc.   Think outside the box.  If you don’t have your own program/idea, help someone who does.

Let the energy and excitement build around the outcomes you want to see and please, please STOP  keeping the energy flowing to them by putting all your attention there.

Quit Being Mean

I’ll admit I snicker at some of the stuff going around, but at the same time I know making fun of people is just mean. I am no better than they are if I engage in the same behaviors to which I take exception in them.

Being nonviolent means keeping violence out of your words and thoughts as well as avoiding fists and weapons.  See more about nonviolence here.

What Aspects of Them are in You?

If you really can’t let go, and keep obsessing, it’s time to start looking within.  Nothing about someone else’s behavior can have so much impact on you unless you are reacting to something in you that you’re seeing as being “out there”.

Whatever you see in the world reflects  you.  If you’re seeing disturbing stuff and feeling upset all the time over it, it’s time to take responsibility for what needs to be healed in you.  I’ve written lots of posts about healing what’s in you, and there’s one specifically about #45.

Move Your Being into Peace and Compassion

None of us have any business being snotty about lack of peace and compassion in others if we aren’t embodying love, peace and compassion ourselves.  I’m not there.  If you aren’t either, work on that.  We’re all one, part of the same whole.  Every time one of us raises consciousness everyone is lifted.

I’ve written about doing some chanting for opening my heart and filling with love ever since the election.  I’ve also been taking a class involving lovely meditations or putting love out into the world, called a Vow to Love.  All the materials are on line so you can still sign up.

If none of that appeals, sit vipassana, do guided meditations for peace (I think there are thousands on YouTube), heal your inner wounds.  Doesn’t matter which path you choose, just do your part to  be the peace.  Be the change you want to see.

The more loving and compassionate you become, the more nonviolent and peaceful you will be in your activism.  The easier it will be to choose the most loving path of resistance.

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Creating Reality on the World Stage 2: Be “For” Instead of “Against”

Louise Hay Affirmation

Louise Hay Affirmation

As discussed in Part 1 of this series, energy flows where attention goes so you can make a difference in the world by focusing your attention on the good outcomes you hope to see.  A big issue once you’ve chosen which side to give your focus, is how to frame your thoughts and actions in the positive.

In this country — and from what I can see, much of the world — we have a tendency to take exception to a policy or circumstance and then just be against it.  The general translation of the quote about Nazism being bandied about is that standing up against fascism means you have to incessantly flood the world — or your Facebook and Twitter feeds — with vitriol.

I see standing up as being a moment to be “for” democracy and equality.  What does that look like?  What are the steps to take to move in that direction?

Affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements, framed in the present as if they’re already happening.  They’ve been used for years to help people move away from negative thinking and into a more positive frame.  I’ve taught about writing affirmations in several contexts in my workshops.

One of the fascinating things each time I’ve taught this is to see how very many people (I’d say half to three-quarters of most groups) write what I call a “negation of the negative” instead of an affirmation.  It’s so hard for many people to move in a positive direction that even when you ask them to write a positive statement they respond with a negative.

Someone with migraines is likely to write:  “I don’t have migraines any more.”  This is not an affirmation.  The main attention of energy and focus here is “have migraines”.  The positive statement would be “my head feels marvelous all the time” or “my head is healthy and feels good every day in every way“.

Or someone with a big debt writes:  “I no longer have a lot of debt”.  Not an affirmation, it focuses attention and energy on debt.  The affirmation, “I have complete financial freedom and abundance flows to me effortlessly“.  Or “I am prosperous in every aspect of my life“.

It’s a question of looking beyond whatever you want to change and asking yourself what you would feel like without it or how your world will look when you’ve moved beyond.  Then creating a positive statement that assumes this change has already occurred.  Once you have the positive view you can start asking yourself what actions you can take to move toward that vision.

In the wider world, the same basic process is how you move from focusing attention on the negative to focusing on the positive.  Instead of being “against”, be “for”.    For instance, instead of being “against Trump”, be “for Clinton” or “for socialism”.

Being For Instead of Against

In order to send your attention and energy in the direction of the change in the world you want to see, you have to learn to frame your thoughts — and protests — in the same kind of positive note as you would in an affirmation for your own life.  Constant negative statements about “stopping fascism”, “ending bigotry”, “battling xenophobia”, etc send energy to fascism, bigotry, and xenophobia.

The positive side of those statements:

  • democracy is now world-wide and beloved by all
  • all of life is divine and deserving of compassion, love and equal rights
  • we are all one web, every nation in the world, and we fill the web with compassion, tolerance, love and peace

After the Re-frame

Once you’ve chosen to turn your attention away from what you don’t want and instead to focus on your projected goals and then re-framed your thoughts to affirm the positive, then you can explore what you can do to achieve the goal.  The next several posts in this series will explore “being and doing”, energy and collective consciousness, and the under-the-radar revolution of the “Cultural Creatives”.

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And the healing takes another leap

English: "Visualization of the Heart Chak...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I haven’t had any body work since the appointment last spring with Hanna and Larry, who powerfully lifted a big piece of ancestral cement from the stuff in my head.*  So it was a great treat to have my mother offer to pay for an appointment and to get a treatment with Hanna yesterday.

Bye Bye Wooden

animated-trees_edited

As always, a lot moved and many interesting things happened.  She spent a lot of time working on my head and at one point as she worked I sensed “ancestral”, something released and I had a crazy image of an animated tree (just like an animated tree “character” in Wizard101) flying up and out of my head.

After the appointment she mentioned working on an area with a lot of tension in my face and feeling it relax.  It wasn’t until I was driving away that I remembered how often I’ve applied “wooden” to the muscles in my face I’ve felt are an ancestral legacy and thought “wooden” about their expressions in photos or how my face feels.  Suddenly I got the animated flying tree as representing the staunchly tense ancestors and I knew that piece was released.

As always, the release has not led to the instant opening of all remaining knotted muscles, but a fair bit came out in the appointment and in the massive unwinding which started up a few hours later, I could tell it was working on a whole new level from where it was the day before.

Loving Them Anyway

After the floating tree, as she continued to work on my head, I was suddenly taken to another ancestral piece I recently mentioned about having slave owners in the family.  While chewing on this issue I’d already realized there’s a much more current piece to it, which has been kind of the ignored elephant in the room for me:  the bigotry of my mother’s mother and sister.

I adored my grandmother (the only grandparent I ever knew as my parents lost the other three as children) and most of the time nothing in our interactions brought up her racist viewpoint.  But it was there and, while I tried periodically to talk her into changing her mind, mostly I tried not to think about it as the confusion between my love for her and my dislike of her opinion seemed too confusing to resolve.

I’ve written occasionally about my aunt with whom I had a conflicted relationship on many levels so being mad at her for her narrow-minded views (she and her rich, Republican friends were the types who dissed pretty much every group other than rich WASP Presbyterians and Episcopalians…) was easier.  But still complicated.

They’re both long dead but I’ve carried the unresolved conflict all these years.  As bits and pieces of the story floated to mind while Hanna worked, I thought about that conflict and the degree to which it left an uneasy place inside.  Which led to contemplating loving someone but seeing a flaw that big and figuring out what to do about the contradiction.

And suddenly as Hanna worked, I knew it’s a gift the Universe gives us to present us with family members whom we love but who are bigots or alcoholics or unreliable, etc.  We love them and despise them but most of us can’t quite let go because of the love and family ties.  Really, it’s what a spiritual life is always calling us to do — love everyone unconditionally.

What an opportunity we’re offered in these conflicted relationships of love and hate all mixed up.   I don’t see loving as requiring that you hang around.  If someone is too toxic for you, you can love the divine spirit from afar.  But seeing the flaws and loving anyway is a great spiritual endeavor.  Once I could see the gift in that, I realized I don’t have to resolve the conflict, I just have to let the love win.

They were who they were and I loved them with confusion but they’re gone and I’m still here, not sharing their views.  [Not sure how my mom sidestepped her family’s view but she and my dad taught me to treat all people of all races, religions, etc. with equal dignity and thanks to their guidance and examples, that’s what stuck].  I felt a big sense of release as I understood the lesson of love and the gift these conflicts offer.

The Jagged and the Strong

In this unwinding process I’ve been regularly aware of a pattern moving from the sphenoid in my head to my feet, particularly on the left side.  Frequently something opens in my head and a while later some muscles open in my pelvis, knee, ankle or foot.

Hanna wound up working down one of those patterns and commented later about how jagged it is.  She’s mentioned the jagged bit before.  This time she also mentioned that all around it are patterns that are strong and straight (I forgot to ask whether she meant energetic patterns or muscle patterns or both) and prepared to help as it works itself out.

Before we started she talked about my self care having been important in all this and when she talked about these strong patterns I realized all the years of yoga, all the work with creating and doing my movement work, receiving body work of many sorts and doing spiritual practices have built strong supports which are now integral to how I live and heal.  Picture me patting myself on the shoulder 🙂

Heart Chakra

One piece she mentioned at the end was a pattern at the base of heart chakra, pushing on my liver and moving up into the shoulder on the other side.  By that time I was a little dazed and I didn’t manage to ask questions.

Many practitioners over the years have referred to a stuck pattern at heart level, of “protecting heart” posture, etc.  There’s been a lot of work done and a lot of opening but I’ve been aware something is still left.  Not sure whether that’s part of what she was working on.

I also have a sense all the chants I’ve been doing which aim at heart chakra are moving stuff in there…

And it goes on

I dream of the day I report this is over — the post will be titled “UNWOUND!!!!”  But today is another one of those progress reports involving a nice leap forward but the process still unfolding…


*After pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the process of healing over the course of many years, I can’t afford it very often any more…

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Uh oh, filling space again…

I’ve got a little 2 or 3 post series forming in my head and planned to start today but the muscles around my eyes are jerking all over the place and it’s hard to focus either my eyes or my brain….

Can’t complain though, the yanking is opening lots of knots, moving along toward that end I’ve been expecting…  for years…   Shh…  Don’t tell anybody, but it could be near…

The chanting, BTW, has been lovely and having such an impact.

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What lies beneath?

3x-great-grandfather-gallaher

Whenever I find myself being deeply emotionally affected by some external circumstance like the election, I know the situation has to be touching on something in me.  Along with chanting for peace and lovingkindness I’ve been watching the ebb and flow of emotions while chanting and also observing the impact of the spewing going on on FB, wondering what my reactions are telling me.

Starting before the election, another major phase of unwinding in my face has been going on.  [The glued-together stuff at the root is finally separating enough I can pick out some specific muscles!]  Whenever muscles are opening there’s a fair chance some old issue, whether personal or ancestral or past life (or all of the above), is going to be released.

The way the Universe operates, I figure there’s a pretty good chance the issues from the election and whatever I’m moving through in the healing process are related.  As I’ve contemplated I’ve looked at a few things and come up with one surprise issue I’ll be exploring.

Several times the Gayatri Mantra has produced a big emotional reaction so I looked up a translation.  I know it’s used often for peace and that it opens the heart, but the specific meaning of the words doesn’t seem to stick with me.  I found a lovely translation and discussion on this site:

OM BUHR, BHUVA, SWAHA
OM TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT”

We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of Sin and Ignorance;
May He open our hearts and enlighten our Intellect

While I don’t find anything there that raises a specific personal issue, I can see that the tone and purpose of the chant is a big contradiction to what’s going on in the U.S. right now.  I figure it’s hitting right in the place where fear is pulling me away from an open heart…

The big place where I’ve been very emotional involves the horrible things Trump has said about people of other races and religions, especially his commentary on Blacks.  Ridiculing the Black Lives Matter movement and talking about “go back to Africa” hurts my heart.  One evening as I explored inward about what might be evoking such a strong response, I suddenly saw my family tree in my mind’s eye.

You see my 3X great grandfather and his son, my 2X great grandfather (plus his many siblings) owned slaves.  When I first encountered a copy of a will from 1837 in my grandfather’s effects, I was so young I really didn’t know what the bequests that seemed to hand off people meant.  Nor did any of us know what relation the testator had to us.

As an adult I recalled seeing the will and realized somebody in my family had been a slaveholder.  I’ve grappled with guilt over it off and on ever since but ultimately I’ve had to realize I wasn’t there, I didn’t convince anyone to do it and I’m not responsible for what they did.  I’ve always aimed to treat every human I encounter with dignity regardless of race, creed or religion and I don’t quite know what to do about what my ancestors did 170-200+ years ago,

Eventually I did enough research to know the maker of the will was my 3X great grandfather.  I’ve stood on the property he owned in Tennessee and I’ve seen the graves of both him and his son.  What mixed feelings I have about them.

It was moving to see the piece of land my 3X great grandfather purchased around 1800.  It’s hard to describe how it felt to stand not only at his grave but also my 3X great grandmother and another set of 3X great grandparents whose daughter, my 2X great grandmother, married my 2X great grandfather.

They’re my family.  They moved from Scotland to Ireland when England offered property and then a few generations later my 4X great grandfather moved to Pennsylvania.  Eastern Tennessee came next, then a little west to Knoxville.  Eventually branches of this family were involved in every major surge to the west in American history.  Part of me is proud that these poor farmers had the courage to keep picking up and moving forward to seek a better life.

Part of me wants to travel back in time so I can hop up and down in fury and demand what on earth they were thinking???  How could they be so cruel?  I wind up in this ambivalent space between loving them because they’re my family (and much of the courage and conviction I carry I know I owe to them) and despising them because they lacked humanity.

A piece, then, involves my ambivalence.  But I also have a deep sense I’m feeling something that has to do with those ancestors and how they felt or now feel about slavery and their part in it.  I’ll be doing some exploring in meditation and ceremony about the ancestral piece and possibly it’s time for a check-in with Hanna for some of her excellent healing.

How about you — if you’re feeling strong emotions around the election of Trump, have you found any of those feelings arise from personal issues? Are you aware of the source of these deep reactions to xenophobia, bigotry, discrimination, misogyny, etc.?

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The Great Divide Part 2: Economy

English: Workers inside the South Brisbane But...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I ruminated about the impact of education on the big division in this country.  The other arena in which I’m pondering options for narrowing the gap is economic.  A huge portion of those who supported Trump are people who’ve been left behind by the job market.

They often seem to blame immigrants and/or Americans of a different color than theirs for taking their jobs.  I, on the other hand, see three main causes: (1) automation replacing jobs; (2) companies seeking lower employee payrolls moving operations to other countries and (3) the tsunami of technology and its shift of jobs into arenas requiring skills most laid-off workers don’t possess.

We don’t have to agree on the cause to agree it’s scary and horrible to lose your job and to have nothing on the horizon to replace it.  Democrats have talked about doing something but haven’t produced.  Republicans don’t even talk about programs to help (anyone ever?).  Deporting a bunch of immigrants isn’t going to change the economic realities.

Companies who are saving money with automation aren’t going to bring back a work force.  Nor are the ones who’ve moved factories to places with cheap labor forces going to come back to pay the high wages required here.  And nothing is going to stop technology’s relentless growth and change and the degree to which it has become the heart of the marketplace.  [Changing the entrenched corporate greed, a topic for another day…  or possibly after a revolution???]

So it seems to me it’s time to figure something out for the workers who have been left behind.  I’ve seen the opinion we can help their children (presumably by training for tech jobs) but there’s nothing to do for the 40-60 year-olds who have neither jobs nor the skills to move to the technology sector.  Surely in a nation as great as this we can do better than that.

It’s not my area of expertise, so I’m not sure what could happen, but surely there are people with ideas who could devise plans, projects, programs, possibilities???  How can we reach out?  Bridge this gap?

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